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J Mol Neurosci. 2004;24(3):425-42.

Pathological proteins in Parkinson's disease: focus on the proteasome.

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  • 1Boston University School of Medicine, 715 ALbany Street, Room L-603, Boston, MA 02118-2526, USA.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a multifactorial disease that appears to arise from the effects of both genetic and environmental influences. Pesticides and heavy metals are the principle environmental factors that appear to impact on PD. The known genetic factors include multiple genes that have been identified in related parkinsonian syndromes, as well as alpha-synuclein. Genes associated with either PD or Parkinson-related disorders include parkin, DJ-1, ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 (UCH-L1), nuclear receptor-related factor 1, and alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is particularly notable because it aggregates readily and is the main component of Lewy bodies (LBs). Aggregated alpha-synuclein binds the proteasome and potently inhibits proteasomal activity. Because ubiquitin accumulates in LBs, and parkin and UCH-L1 also interact with the ubiquitin proteasomal system, proteasomal dysfunction is thought to contribute to the pathophysiology of PD. Increasing numbers of experiments suggest that neurotoxins might interact with alpha-synuclein or other Parkinson-related proteins to contribute to the pathophysiology of PD. Transgenic animal models overexpressing alpha-synuclein develop age-dependent motor dysfunction and inclusions in the brain stem that contain alpha-synuclein. These models are very helpful in elucidating the pathophysiology of PD but do not completely recapitulate the disease process. The relationship between these transgenic models and PD is a subject of intense investigation.

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